A Weapon for Suppressing Dissent
By Frank Morales
(The following article is a departure from our general
policy of confining to affairs relating to India. We are publishing this
article received by email through our website because of the tremendous
possibilities of the use of this new so-called "non-lethal weapon,
which uses electro magnetic energy to cause a burning sensation on the
skin", for suppressing protests and demonstrations. Besides the fact
that it is " the biggest breakthrough in weapons technology since
the atomic bomb, it can be used to engage a crowd directing two-second
burst of energy without risk of being overcome by the mob".) -- General
The Marine Corps, USA, is on the verge of unveiling perhaps the biggest
breakthrough in weapons technology since the atomic bomb: a non-lethal
weapon that fires directed energy at human targets."
"I have nothing to hide. This is a good news story. Our American
public needs to understand that we have done our homework." - Col.
George Fenton, Director, Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, Department
of Defense Marine Corps Times, March 5, 2001. In a neatly calculated "unveiling"
of weapons designed for social control, for use against civilians and
the suppression of dissent, the Pentagon has gone "transparent"
with the latest in electronic weapons technology which targets people.
At a selective press briefing for congressional and military leaders this
past March 1st, Pentagon officials stated they were "developing a
new non-lethal weapon which uses electromagnetic energy to cause a burning
sensation on the skin" (Reuters, 3/1/01). The biggest breakthrough
in weapons technology since the atomic bomb" is none other than the
so-called "Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial System" or VMADS. According
to the March 5th issue of the Marine Corps Times, (cited above) in an
article entitled, "The People Zapper: This new secret weapon doesn't
kill, but it sure does burn", the "VMADS system is the first
non-lethal, directed energy weapon designed specifically for use against
humans." The weapon "focuses energy into a beam of micro millimeter
waves designed to stop an individual in his tracks." Powered by electricity,
it would ultimately "be powered by the modified Humvee on which it
would be mounted."
According to the Marine Corps Times report, the projected energy "which
falls near microwaves on the electromagnetic spectrum, causes the moisture
in a person's skin to heat up rapidly, creating a burning sensation, similar
to a hot light bulb pressed against one's flesh." The microwaves,
"whose exact length, frequency and amplitude are classified, cause
water molecules in the skin cells to vibrate." Presumably, "when
used as directed - that is, briefly - the weapon causes no long-term problems".
Meanwhile, "the amount of time the weapon must be trained on an individual
to cause permanent damage or death is classified." Studies of long-term
effects of "the VMADS system" have been completed, according
to the report, but "the findings have not been released publicly."
It should be noted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff major policy directive
in the area of non-lethal weapons, DoD Directive 3000, which is currently
under revision, calls for these weapons to have a built-in "rheostatic"
(ie. "tunable") capability.
The Marine report states that, "the need for a non-lethal means for
stopping an aggressor is a direct response to today's world of unknown
enemies & where small numbers of troops find themselves facing off
against large crowds of civilians." And while "weapons that
fire lasers, electricity and sound waves have been in development for
years", "not since the advent of gun-powder and the splitting
of the atom have armies seen such a leap in technology." The range
of the electromagnetic weapon "remains classified" but project
officials "expect it will exceed 750 meters" (2250') allowing
the Marines to "engage a crowd from afar, directing two-second bursts
of energy without risk of being overcome by the mob." The "mob",
the target of the directed beam, cooking in 130 degree heat, "would
immediately experience intense pain, causing confusion and driving the
crowd to disperse." And while "the intention is not to burn
the skin", "those hit by the beam begin to feel intense heat"
during "potential applications" which include "urban operations."
And finally, while "the Defense Department has spent nearly $40 million
over ten years to develop the technology...budget redirections from last
year...show another $26 million could be needed for development over the
next five years." The primary contractor for the current VMADS $16
million project is Raytheon Missile Systems.
Deeper Unveiling turns out that while the Marines expect to be microwaving
people, it was the Air Force that developed the "technology"
in the first place. On February 22, 2001 the United States Air Force Research
Laboratory, located at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, issued it's
own news release announcing that "a breakthrough technology designed
to project an energy beam that drives away adversaries without injuring
them, is now undergoing advanced testing." (2) According to the Air
Force, the projected energy "beam" travels "at the speed
of light" and penetrates "1/64 of a inch into the skin",
rapidly heating up the skin's surface, causing the "subject",
within seconds, to "feel pain that stops when the transmitter is
shut off or when the subject moves out of the beam." According to
the news release, the weapon was developed by two Air Force Research Laboratory
teams: one from it's Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland, the other
from it's Human Effectiveness Directorate, located at Brooks Air Force
Base, Texas. The learned team leaders, Lt. Col. Chuck Beason and Dr. Kirk
Hackett noted, in reference to the new EM weapon, that "the effect
exploits a natural defense mechanism - pain - that has evolved to protect
the human body from damage."
The Air Force Research Laboratory - Directed Energy Directorate, in addition
to developing "high powered electromagnetic weapons and countermeasures"
also develops "moderate and high power laser devices" In fact,
recently (2/212/01), the public affairs office of the Airborne Laser System
Program Office, located at Kirtland, AFB, announced that "Lockheed
Martin Space Systems will open an $8 million, 16,000 square-foot optical
test center & designed to analyze the beam guidance system for the
U.S. Air Force's Airborne Laser, the world's first combat aircraft armed
with a directed energy weapon." Meanwhile, the Space Vehicles Directorate
- Air Force Research Laboratory, "develops technologies to support
evolving war fighter requirements to control and exploit space."
This past November, Kirtland AFB was the sight of the 3rd Annual Directed
Energy Symposium entitled, Directed Energy for the 21st Century, presented
by the Directed Energy Professional Association, in cooperation with the
Office of the Secretary of Defense. The VMADS system is currently being
tested in field conditions by the Air Force at Kirtland, AFB. At the New
Mexico site, "they are using a transmitter that sends a narrow beam
of energy to a test subject hundreds of yards away." It is reassuring
to note that "all testing is being conducted with strict observance
of the procedures, laws and regulations governing animal and human experimentation".
In addition, "the
tests have been reviewed and approved by the Air Force Surgeon General's
Office and are conducted by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Human
Effectiveness Directorate." Finally, "although testing is expected
to continue in this summer (2001), officials have begun examining the
technology for use on a vehicle-mounted version. Future versions might
also be used onboard planes and ships." Col. George Fenton, director
of the US Marine operated NLW program firmly believes in the safety of
this "revolutionary force protection technology." He recently
stated that "humans have been exposed more than 6,000 times in testing,
all inside the laboratory (and that) no long term effects have been detected."
Given that track record, Fenton believes that "the technology could
move into the acquisition phase of making a prototype as soon as this
summer (2001), when the project would be taken over by the Air Force's
Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., near Boston."
Finally, on-cue the New York Times joined in on the "unveiling",
heralding "what some military officials hope will become the rubber
bullet of the 21st century: a weapon that uses electromagnetic waves to
disperse crowds without killing, maiming or, military officials say, even
injuring anyone slightly."
Not even slightly! After all, notes the Times, they are only "intended
to influence motivational behavior." According to free lance writer/researcher
David Guyatt, "less than lethal anti-personnel weapons, especially
some classes of EM weapons that are viewed as having a capability to remotely
modify behavior or attack higher functions, are seen in some influential
quarters as being the ideal remedy for future domestic disturbances...",
wherein, the forces of repression will target the opposition, "armed
with innovative technological weapons that do not necessarily kill but
which render disenfranchised segments of society physically inactive,
emotionally stupefied and incapable of meaningful thought".
Sound farfetched? Back in 1986, Marine Corps Captain Paul E. Tyler, author
of an influential study entitled, "The Electromagnetic Spectrum in
Low-Intensity Conflict" was already making the point that "the
potential applications of artificial electromagnetic fields are wide ranging
and can be used in many military or quasi - military situations"
including "crowd control". At that time he pointed out that
although scientists hadn't identified electromagnetism for what it really
was until the eighteenth century, "the results of many studies that
have been published in the last few years indicate that specific biological
effects can be achieved by controlling the various parameters of the electromagnetic
(EM) field." And further, "many of the clinical effects of electromagnetic
radiation (have) been reported in the literature to induce or enhance
the following effects (including) electro anaesthesia & behaviour
modification in animals, altered electroencephalograms in animals and
humans, altered brain morphology in animals, altered firing of neuronal
According to Capt. Tyler, "a 1982 Air Force review of biotechnology
had this to say: Currently available data allow the projection that specially
generated radio frequency radiation (RFR) fields may pose powerful and
revolutionary antipersonnel military threats. Electroshock therapy indicates
the ability of induced electric current to completely interrupt mental
functioning for short periods of time, to obtain cognition for longer
periods and to restructure emotional response over prolonged intervals."
Further, "experience with electroshock therapy, RFR experiments and
the increasing understanding of the brain as an electrically mediated
organ suggested the serious probability that impressed electromagnetic
fields can be disruptive to purposeful behaviour and may be capable of
directing and or interrogating such behaviour", while "the passage
of approximately 100 mill amperes through the myocardium can lead to cardiac
standstill and death, again pointing to a speed-of-light weapons effect."